What’s for supper? Vol. 145: If you give a mouse prosciutto

Lots of variety this week! Rich tapestry of life and so on. Here’s what we had:

SATURDAY
Hamburgers and chips

Saturday seems like so long ago. I think Damien bought and cooked the burgers while I . . . did something? You guys, he has this new job where he gets to do the work he likes, he gets paid more, and he’s home. He’s home for supper, home for track meets, home for bedtime. It’s fantastic. It’s the best thing that’s happened to our family in years and years, and I’m very happy!

SUNDAY
A CONFUSING FEAST

My daughter works at a deli. One afternoon, we had this exchange:

And that was all I knew. A present? Better than cheese? The suspense! It turns out that what she had was a pound of top quality prosciutto! But it was unsliced, as it was an end piece. $4 a pound for meat that goes for $14.99 a pound. Grocery bargains are my love language.

Prosciutto happens to be my other love language (I’m a bit of a polyglot, to be honest. Will also accept love via pork belly, steak, just about any variety of cheese, shrimp, pie, more cheese, crusty breads, soft breads, herbed butter, most fruits, all types of puddings, custards, and flans, creamy soups, clear soups, middle eastern food, Columbian food, Thai food, Greek food, anything with basil, anything with garlic, hot pretzels, fried pickles, cheese cake, smoked meats, raw oysters, sun dried tomatoes . . .

I’m sorry, I’ve lost my focus. We were talking about the prosciutto. I solicited recipes online, but eventually decided that just plain bruschetta would be best.

Bizarrely, two stores were out of baguettes, so I bought ready-made crostini with olive oil and flaky salt, and I sharpened my best knife and sliced the prosciutto as thin as I could, which was not very thin.

I had collected some creamy fresh mozzarella, and also some gouda, and huge clusters of juicy, dusky grapes. And we also needed fig paste. I had originally been planning to save this treat as an adults-only evening snack, but I had to admit that I had bought kind of a lot of food for two people, so I started planning a family meal around it.

It . . . kind of got out of control.

Oven roasts were still on sale, and as I previously mentioned, I scoff at rigid categories of cuts of meat. Someone had mentioned chimichurri, which I can’t believe I didn’t already know about. It turns out to be really easy to make. You just stuff the things in the food processor, run in a bunch of olive oil, and there it is.

So I sliced the meat into wide strips and threaded them accordion-style onto skewers for Damien to grill outside with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, to be dredged through the chimichurri.

And also a batch of pickled red onions in vinegar, sugar, and cilantro. There were also some lovely tender peas in pods looking for a home, so I set those out in a bowl just as they were. And some salami, and some herbed, braided mozzarella that I forgot I got. And a little bowl of just plain olive oil. And some wild grapes we found while we were gardening. And some more cheese that I forgot I got.

It may be the best meal I ever served. Technically this was a Mediterrani0-Argentinean Travesty with Cheddar and Peas, but it worked, my friends. It worked so well. The cheap meat with simple seasonings sizzling on their skewers with the lively, verdant chimichurri. The salty prosciutto with the creamy mozzarella on a bit of salty bread and a dab of dark fig paste. Cleanse the palate with a few fresh pea pods and grapes, then back for more meat, this time with pickled onions and cheddar. Oh, it was so good. Damien and I ate outside and shouted for the kids to bring us beer and napkins.

The only thing I have to add to this happy food story is that, when I type “chimichurri,” my phone thinks maybe I mean “chili horrible,” which I do not.

I also did a bit of gardening on Sunday, and we got sixty daffodil bulbs, forty irises, and a dozen fancy tulips into the ground. I always think gardening with children is going to be sweet and lovely and wholesome, and it always ends up being . . . not. There’s a lot of bitey ants and moldy mulch and falling on rakes and shouting. But we did get those bulbs in the ground, because I’m always willing to believe that spring will come again. Here is a pictorial version of how gardening starts and ends:

I also gave a kid a driving lesson, and we did not fall off the side of the mountain

and I bleached and kid’s hair and dyed it blue.

Child has SO MUCH HAIR. What a day!

MONDAY
Bagel sandwiches with fried eggs, pepper jack cheese, and ham.

I had in my arsenal two new cast iron skillets they had as a special at Aldi. Cooking in shifts to feed everyone is the bane of my existence, so I was pretty hyped at the idea of making everyone’s eggs all in one go.

Well, it turns out I’ve been spoiled by nonstick pans. I’ve completely lost the knack of cooking on cast iron. I’ll get it back! But these particular eggs were not top notch. Not top notch at all. I didn’t burn the bagels, anyway.

TUESDAY
Carnitas, beans and rice, tortilla chips, guacamole

My husband, who is from Los Angeles, raaaaved about this meal, which made me feel great! In the morning, I took a pork shoulder and put it in the slow cooker with a can of beer and let it go all day on low. At dinner time, I shredded it and sprinkled it liberally with cumin, chili powder, and salt, then spread it in a shallow pan and put it under the broiler.

My carnitas have always been bland in the past, and overly dependent on toppings, no matter what I cook the meat with. I like this method of deliberately cooking it bland and then seasoning it afterward. Works great.

For the beans and rice, I made rice in the Instant Pot, then added black beans, diced canned tomatoes and some juice, minced red onion, minced garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper, chili powder, and cumin, then reheated it. I meant to add some diced jalapenos, but I forgot. I wish I had written down the proportions, because it turned out so tasty and lively, which is not always the case.

For the guacamole: Four avocados, fresh tomato, diced fresh jalapeno, minced garlic, diced red onion, cilantro, salt and pepper, chili powder, and the juice of two limes. I usually mash half the avocados and chop the other half, but they were a little hard, so I sliced them very thin. Yum.

So then we had flour tortillas with sour cream, the seasoned meat, beans and rice, and guac all together. It was fantastic.

I’m very sad for my past self and my lackluster carnitas. Onward and upward.

WEDNESDAY
Salad with chicken, cranberries, cheese, and nuts

Not a thrilling meal, but decent. I cooked the chicken breasts in the Instant Pot on high pressure for eight minutes in just plain lemon juice. When it was cool, I sliced them and served them over salad greens, along with sliced almonds, dried cranberries, and crumbled feta cheese. I bought a bottle of “black garlic pepper vinaigrette,” whatever that is, but I forgot to try it. I also meant to add sliced Granny Smith apples, but didn’t even realize till this minute that I forgot that, too.

I seem to have forgotten to take a picture, as well. What was I doing all week? Not taking food pictures, I guess. Here’s an old pic of a similar meal:

My family will not eat salad greens as a side dish, but they eat tons of it if it’s part of a main course loaded salad. Works for me!

THURSDAY
English muffin pizzas, pepperoni and black olive

I again forgot to take a picture, but this is what sets me apart from other food bloggers, right? Other food bloggers would torture you with eleven photos of hand-pitted black olives and hand-cured pepperoni that they procured at the pepperoni ranch down the road, laid out artfully on a wooden trencher with lavender and quince hanging around for some reason, interspersed through seven paragraphs about how, on a jaunt to Iceland, they popped into out of the driving rain into an adorable little English muffin shop where the grandmother sat on a two-legged stool in the back, absolutely grinding the flour with her authentic gums while the patrons patiently hung around holding sacks under her jaw, and that’s why Icelandic kids don’t have ADHD.

Not me! I just wrote “pizza” and called it food blogging. In my defense, I did install a thingy so now you can pin images, if you’re into that. Flailing toward solvency, that’s my game.

FRIDAY
Mac and cheese

Easy, cheesy, glutenful: Mac and cheese. I use an Instant Pot recipe. If I’m feeling fancy and I feel like everyone’s blood glucose can take it, I transfer it to a buttered pan and put buttered breadcrumbs on top.

And now it’s almost 12:30 and I haven’t had breakfast yet. I’m loading up all these food pictures and absolutely dying. Gonna go grab some lunch and then get back to you with the recipe cards!

Guess who’s sitting on the couch next to me? My husband. He’s working from home today. You guys.

Chimichurri

Dipping sauce, marinade, you name it

Ingredients

  • 2 cups curly parsley
  • 1 cup Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano (or fresh if you have it)
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Put all ingredients except olive oil in food processor. Whir until it's blended but a little chunky. 

  2. Slowly pour olive oil in while continuing to blend. 

Beef skewers

We used a cheap cut of oven roast and it turned out just great (but I'm sure steak would be good, too!). Serve with chimichurri and pickled onions for a wonderful treat. 

Ingredients

  • beef
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Soak wooden skewers in water for at least half an hour before skewering meat. 

  2. Slice beef across the grain into wide strips, trimming off fat if necessary. Thread them, accordion style, onto the skewers.

  3. Build the fire and let it die down to coals. 
    Just before cooking, drizzle the skewers with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then lay the skewers over the grill, turning occasionally, until they are sizzling. 

  4. Serve with chimichurri and pickled red onions. 

 

Pickled red onions

A nice side dish for beef skewers with chimichurri

Ingredients

  • 2 red onions, sliced thin
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 cup red wine or cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • water

Instructions

  1. Dissolve sugar into vinegar. Add onions and cilantro. Add water if necessary to cover onions. Cover and let sit for several hours before serving. 

 

Slow cooker carnitas

Serve on tortillas with sour cream, guacamole, beans and rice, salsa, cilantro, or whatever you like.

Ingredients

  • 1 pork shoulder
  • 1 can beer (or soda)
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Put pork shoulder in slow cooker with beer. Cook on low for five hours or more, until pork falls apart when poked. 

  2. Preheat broiler. 

  3. Shred meat, mix together with spices, and spread in a thin layer on a shallow pan. Broil for a few minutes until meat is slightly crisped.  

  4. Serve on tortillas with whatever additions you like. 

 

Beans and rice

A good side dish, a main course for meatless meals, or to serve inside carnitas, etc.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups uncooked white rice
  • 1 15-oz cans red or black beans, drained
  • 1 20-oz can diced tomatoes with some of the juice
  • 1 diced jalapeno
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook rice. Add rest of ingredients, adjusting spices to taste. If it's too dry, add more tomato juice. 

 

White Lady From NH's Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 4 avocados
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 medium jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 red onion, diced

Instructions

  1. Peel avocados. Mash two and dice two. 

  2. Mix together with rest of ingredients and add seasonings.

  3. Cover tightly, as it becomes discolored quickly. 

 

Instant Pot macaroni and cheese

Adapted from a CopyKat recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds raw macaroni
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 3 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2-3 pounds cheese of your choice
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1-2 cups buttered bread crumbs for topping (optional)

Instructions

  1. Put macaroni in Instant Pot with enough water to barely cover. Put hot sauce, and mustard on top and mix it well. Mixing may be superstitious; not sure. 

  2. Set IP to high pressure for six minutes. Do quick release. 

  3. Drain any excess water. Add milk, butter, and cheese, and mix until macaroni is coated. 

  4. Serve as is; or butter a pan and pour the macaroni into it, top with buttered bread crumbs, and heat in oven until breadcrumbs are toasted. 

Area Woman Pinning An Awful Lot On That One Run

Area woman Simcha Fisher rebounded from her Christmas and New Year’s slump with a brisk one-mile run this week.

“It’s so good to get moving again,” Fisher said, toweling off her neck with a mitten. “Whew, it’s been too long!” Fisher didn’t say so out loud, but she privately believed her hips had actually already gotten a little bit smaller even in that one run, probably because the fat was just temporary silly holiday fat, and not actual regular fat.

All through December, Fisher had allowed countless phalanxes of cookies and cake, various smoked meats and soft cheeses, sugared nuts, candied fruit, and cream-filled alcoholic beverages to parade down her gullet like a conquering army marching down the streets of an occupied city. But she did go for that one run, and is going to run some more at some point soon, so.

“It’s actually a huge relief to be back in the routine of working out again,” Fisher continued, mentally scoffing at her former bad habits that may have crept up a bit over the course of the last few weeks, during which her only physical activities were cooking, baking, shopping for more food, and cutting mammoth wedges off panettone sweet bread, which is just bread, and not really cake.

Fisher slenderly untied her virtuous running shoes, saying, “I’m going to take tomorrow off and then bump it up to two miles the next day.” She laughed quietly to herself as her abdomen bulged over the waist of her leggings.

“That belly doesn’t even bother me, because I know I’m already working on it,” she said. “I even started running again!” She then rolled her eyes derisively some of those poor suckers who were just starting out at the gym this year, and who were actually fat, instead of just temporarily silly fat.

Fisher than sat on a stool and ate some quick granola, just a little bit to keep the energy up, and then, ooh, there is some of that smoked gouda left, while making her schedule for the coming week. She noted that January was going to be really busy, and it would be hard to find time to get to the gym.

“Well, I’ll fit it in when I can,” she said. “It just feels so good to be active again.”

Actually, that run was last week.

 

***

Dancing Venus by Nina Paley

The lady was sad, and MAD. (We showed the kids an opera!)

don giovanni

My kids’ experience with opera comes entirely from Bugs Bunny, and we really wanted them to branch out. So, with great trepidation, we showed them Don Giovanni last weekend … and they loved  it. More or less.

We did it in two nights. The first night, I set out some trays heaped with treats in the living room. We had brie, havarti, and honey goat cheese and three kinds of crackers, red and green grapes, mini chocolate eclairs, and sparkling cider. So the kids were all excited and cheerful, and ready to have a fancy good time. For my kids, this step is essential. If they get any whiff of high art or culture, they turn into jerks and refuse to enjoy themselves, so they need to be softened up. This is okay with me, because I, too, enjoy cheese.

We went with the Metropolitan Opera’s 2000 production with set design by Franco Zeffirelli. This production has large, clear subtitles, and all the literate kids followed the action just fine. (And the story doesn’t waste any time, but leaps right in, which is one of the reasons I chose this opera.)

The amazing thing was that Benny (age 3) picked up an awful lot, too, and was engaged throughout. She could tell that DonjiManji was one bad dude. She called all the women “princesses” (score one for the wonderful costumes, which were everything opera costumes should be) and said that Donna Elivra was “sad, and mad.” When Don Ottavio was pestering Donna Anna for the umpteenth time, she remarked, “The princess wants him to shut up.”

They laughed at the funny parts (Ferruccio Furlanetto as Leperello did a great job of making all the subtler jokes obvious with gestures and smirks) and were aghast at Don Giovanni’s wickedness.

The NYT review said that Bryn Terfel

comes to the Don with his own powerful if somewhat repugnant point of view. If the production is about period elegance, the character itself achieves a modern mean-spiritedness. Endearing naughtiness is replaced with outright sadism. This is a coldly obsessive figure for whom rape and murder is not offhand but committed with pleasure.

Well, that is the role. I don’t see how the rest of the opera makes any sense if the Don is just endearingly naughty; and his sneering callousness helped the kids to see why (spoiler) Don Giovanni goes to Hell but Leperello gets off the hook. Terfel’s power and command were sufficient to explain why the women found him hard to resist, and, as the NYT says,

this not very nice man sings like an angel. The articulation was wonderful, and Mr. Terfel commands such a depth of color that his ”La ci darem la mano” could soar out into the hall even at half voice. Volume does not necessarily conquer the Met’s bigness. Quality and focus have a better chance.

The entire cast had that focus, and no one seemed dwarfed. Here’s the rest of the cast:

Bryn Terfel (Don Giovanni), Ferruccio Furlanetto (Leporello), Renee Fleming (Donna Anna), Solveig Kringelborn (Donna Elvira), Hei-Kyung Hong (Zerlina), Paul Groves (Don Ottavio), Sergei Koptchak (Commendatore) and John Relyea (Masetto). James Levine was conductor.

Renee Fleming was tremendous. I think a few of the kids were crying when she wept, “O padre mio!” The NYT:

Fleming’s Donna Anna had unusual breadth. ”Non mi dir” luxuriated in the softness of her timbre, yet the early scenes abandoned beauty for its own sake and took on a wonderful fierceness. She is in both moods a splendid musician; the attention to rhythm, phrase length and pitch legitimized the emotion.

Quite right about the two moods. She showed real depth. Her character is naturally more interesting than Don Ottavio’s anyway, but I was really struck, in this production, by how unworthy he is of her! And what a pest, good heavens. I think if she broke a toe or won the Nobel prize for phsyics, he’d scoot over and explain that this was the perfect time for her to get over her grief and marry him.  Anyway, she was immensely present in the role, and plus, she is just so beautiful.

Solveig Kringelborn as Donna Elivira was a revelation to me. I’ve heard this role mainly played as straight up crazy bitch; but Kringelborn brought out some real pathos and humor, and avoided sounding screamy in a role that has a lot of high notes. I enjoyed every minute of her performance, and the kids loved her.

Zerlina, I was not so crazy about, and the kids had a hard time with her character. I’ve seen her played more winningly.  Her voice was crystalline and her diction was perfect, but there was no appeal in her stage presence, that I could see. It would have been fine as an audio performance, but I wouldn’t seek out Hei-Kyung Hong out for this stage role again.

Masetto did fine. Paul Groves as Don Ottavio was nicely stolid and useless, and his voice was as lovely as you could wish for his lovely arias. Don Ottavio is not actually allowed to breathe at any point, and Groves did not. The Commendatore was nice and creepy. I totally would have repented if it had been me holding that cold hand!

assuming I was still awake by the time the Commendatore showed up again

assuming I was still awake by the time the Commendatore showed up

We rented this two-disc set through Netflix, which has several Don Giovannis available. You can buy the DVD set on Amazon, or you can rent it directly from the Met for $3.99.

Very sensitive audiences will be upset with the scariness of the final scene, and with Don Giovanni’s handsiness, but it is an opera about rape and damnation, so. There was nothing so explicit that we found it off-bounds for the kids.

Next up: not sure! I think Mozart is great for kids: the emotion is so evident, and he doesn’t waste any time. Maybe The Barber of Seville.I’m sadly ignorant about Italian opera, and I’d like to remedy that. What would you suggest?